This story originally featured as "Suburban Luxury" in The Book of Interiors Volume 2 (2005)
Some might consider St. Ann's Apartments at the southern end of Ailesbury Road to be Dublin's answer to the Forum des Halles. The 1970s building certainly stands out amid a prosperous suburban landscape of gorgeous tree-shrouded Victorian homes.
In January 2005, Helen Roden and Joseph Ensko of Merrion Square Interiors began converting one of St. Ann's top floor apartments into a highly polished, cutting-edge bachelors pad. By April, the place had been entirely revamped and was accepting viewings by persons seeking to rent surely one of the best-located apartments in the city.
The excellence of Roden and Ensko's work is matched only by the remarkable pace in which they completed their briefs. The two have built up an esteemed reputation in Dublin's designer circles since founding Merrion Square Interiors in 1994. Their portfolio includes the penthouse apartments in the Merrion Hotel, an 18th century country house in Westmeath, an arts and crafts house in Enniskerry and numerous other penthouse apartments, contemporary mews and Georgian townhouses in South Dublin.
One of their greatest skills is the creation of illusion. Covering 2500 square feet, the St. Ann's apartment was big but by no means beautiful. The principal open-plan living and dining area sprawled about uncertainly, unsure which way it was heading. The two bedrooms appeared almost to be tagged on to the side by accident.
Roden and Ensko swiftly set about disciplining the apartment. They planted a corridor of cream limestone tiles from the entrance hall through the centre of the main room through to the bedrooms. A mirror at the end of the tiles projects the image back towards the hallway creating a sense of completeness. The corridor is flanked by "Georgian Square" pure woollen carpets on either side. As such the room is now split into its two distinct halves, an impression further enhanced by the addition of two pilasters projecting slightly from the "entrance" to the dining area.
Mirrors are again used to great effect in the bedrooms where they are raised above doors, echoing their natural buoyancy along the ceiling. A similar ambience is created by the various silver and eglomise accents running through the apartment, from the mirror frames to the silver leaf ceiling in the hall to the numerous lamps and vases scattered about.
The owner wanted to rent the apartment out. As such, Roden and Ensko's brief was effectively to create a subtle and seductive canvas onto which any future resident might splash their own particular shades of colour. Hence the use of neutral colours - on the damask, the striped velvet chenille, the metallic black and woven cream leather Ottomans, the crushed mica stone wallpaper. To keep the sense of space uncluttered, all plugs and wires are carefully concealed by a variety of grid plasterwork cornicing, repanelled walls, bookcases, jail-screens and radiator cabinets.
The bedrooms initially presented a problem in that they were singularly unimaginative cubes, albeit with impressively large windows. Roden and Ensko design all their furniture, successfully pitching themselves as a one-stop shop for both design and supply. The furniture is all made in Ireland to Merrion Square Interiors own designs and includes the custom-made bedheads and wardrobes sheathed in grass cloth. A series of focal points were created, such as the bedside bobble lamps with drum shades. A 19th century portrait frame hosts a full length mirror in one bedroom, its elaborate gilt edge now the same gently distressed grey as the side-table on which it stands. Extraneous cupboards were replaced with functional cubes for displaying heirlooms and objets d'art. Light pours in through wooden Venetian blinds, the sparkling granite walls of Donnybrook Church and the Dublin Mountains rising and falling beyond. There is a great sense of refined peace here - inspired by harmonious tones and simple angles, bolstered by contemporary furniture and an exceptional eye for 21st century design.
Photography: Paul Sherwood